"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
As you may have noticed, ICS will begin three different yet connected initiatives during the 2013 - 14 school year: Family Suppers, Irish Cup, and Household Meetings.
All three revolve around the 2013 - 14 ICS theme "HOME". All three are intended to help our school community grow closer together and closer to God. They should provide us with greater and more opportunities for us to actually be something that all Catholic schools worth their salt claim to be: a family.
- To further the mission of the school by providing greater pastoral care to all our students while strengthening our sense of family, school spirit and faith in God.
First, the overall concept began during an in-service training I attended back in May. The focus of the day was anti-bullying and strategies to help prevent these negative interactions from occurring within the walls of our schools were the main topic of conversation. During one of the many activities throughout the day, I was struck with two thoughts.
First, we do not do enough to actually promote and create a sense of family within and among our students. We take for granted that since we are a Catholic school and most of our students are Catholic or at least Christian and therefore will treat each in Christ-like ways.
Second, we have "homerooms" within our school - the room in which all students begin and end their days. Some spend the entire course of their core content there. Others use it as a place for lockers and starting and ending their days. In either case, camaraderie may be developed and fostered but only on a grade level basis. In cases where there are two sections (or homerooms) within a grade, this fellowship is delegated to include only half of the class. If anything, and despite the healthy rivalries that can result, homerooms serve as a divisive aspect of our schools. So, the idea to include "Households" into our school community was hatched. Students would still be divided into homerooms by grade level. They would also, though, be divided into Households - headed by one of our faculty members and comprised of students from all grade levels.
Thus, a purpose was also envisioned: to further the mission of the school by providing greater pastoral care to all students while strengthening our sense of family, school spirit and faith in God.
This vision, if it were to become a reality within our school, needed time and activities worthy of building and developing a greater sense of family within and among the various constituents in our school community. We couldn't expect people to grow closer together without giving them time and opportunities to establish, develop and cultivate worthwhile relationships. Household activities needed to be more often than once a month and more involved than a 15 minute meeting, sitting together at Mass or playing games together during a pep rally.
The method behind the vision has since taken on many layers and involves many different activities. Households will gather twice per month and the activities will include Household meetings, attendance at Mass as a Household, Household Meals (called Family Suppers) and recreational activities (called Irish Cup Activities).
Household meetings will take place during 1st period on one Wednesday per month. Students within a Household will gather together and enter into a "family meeting" focused on getting to know the various members within the household and working together to accomplish team building activities. At the conclusion of these meetings, Households will gather attend Mass as a Household, sitting together instead of with their grade level homerooms.
Recognizing that 20 minutes of discussion and then worshipping together will not provide enough time to fully create a sense of family, Households will also gather once per month to eat lunch together. Deemed a "Family Supper", Households will eat in classrooms as a household. Taking Christ as our example and model, we believe that eating together as a family will help break down the walls that divide us and allow all students to feel more included and a part of our larger school family. Our Mass is the commemoration of a meal (the Last Supper), Jesus is frequently either at a meal, going to a meal or coming from a meal in the Gospels. From the wedding feast at Cana, to feeding the 5,000, to eating with Peter on the shores after the Resurrection, the Gospel is filled with stories of Jesus breaking bread with others.
Finally, we also realized that families need to play together. In conjunction with our Family Suppers, students and teachers will also participate in a competition for the Irish Cup. Friendly competitions will be designed to center on academics, athletics and school spirit and Households will accumulate points toward the Irish Cup throughout the course of the year for the various Household activities. The culmination of the Irish Cup competition will occur during the Irish Cup Championship - formerly known as (the somewhat isolated and purposeless) Field Day.
Finally, and in an attempt to bring the entire school closer together as a result of these efforts, Households will be grouped into 4 different priories (taken from the organization within many religious orders, a priory is a small group of monks or nuns governed by a prior or prioress). This larger structure will help Households to feel connected with more than just their small group and will create an even greater sense of healthy competition between and among Households within our school. Priories will be named for one of the letters of the word, HOME.
As a way to ensure that students understand this structure and recognize that all Households and Priories are part of the same family, time spent together in Households will always end as a larger school community and will incorporate the following rallying cry:
Give me an H. H!
Give me an O. O!
Give me an M. M!
Give me an E. E! (Each of the above is yelled by the Households representing that particular priory.)
What's that spell? HOME! (Yelled by all.)
Who lives in a HOME? A FAMILY! (Yelled by all.)
Who is our FAMILY? ICS! (Yelled by all.)
As for me and my school, we will serve the Lord.